Sunday, June 9, 2013

Espalier Garden Bed Project - Part 2

Its time for Part 2 in building an Espalier Garden (catch up with Part 1 here).

The garden bed has been built, the soil delivered and settled, now its time to build the espalier frame and plant our fruit tree.

Why Espalier

Espaliering your trees whether they be fruit or ornamental can either be done on against a wall or a formal frame like we have done. It is one of the best space saving techniques for any garden which also adds a wonderful living feature to the draw the eye. Espaliering fruit can increase the yield as well as dress up or hide an unsightly part of the garden or wall.

My aim has been to incorporate as many fruit trees into my garden while leaving enough room for the kids to play cricket and room for the trampoline. Most of my fruit trees have either been dwarf potted varieties or close grouped (up to 3 in any one hole).

With gardens getting smaller and smaller, espaliering your garden is the perfect solution, even if its just down the driveway. Wherever there is good sun - plant.

Apple tree espalier on garden fence. via
Time Creates the Art

The process can take years depending on how quickly the plants grows. Regular tending is imperative, with pruning of the unnecessary branches and the training of the right height branches to each new level.

Bending and tying must be done carefully and selectively.

Never tie the branch so tightly that the branch cannot thicken up with growth.
Choose ties that stretch or can be loosened throughout the growth period. (e.g t-shirt material or stockings)

To bend a branch down gently, attach a piece of dowel or light weight (I've seen a potato inside of a piece of stocking) to the branch and bend gently only a few centimetres and allow gravity to assist over time. Encourage the branch over time to bend a little more while it is still young and thin enough to manipulate, until it reaches the wire that it is to be trained permanently to. Then simply remove the dowel or weight and tie to the espalier wire.

Choice of Tree

One of the biggest worries about creating an espalier is choosing a tree that will work for your space.
Should it fruit, flower or be a permanent cover?

I was concerned that plum trees might not espalier well, but on further research I found that there was no limit on choice. Just about any tree or shrub can be espaliered into any shape.

Remember that non-citrus fruit trees are deciduous which means that they will lose their leaves during certain seasons so be prepared for bare times which will reveal the wall or garden behind.

Bare rooted trees in their bags. via
When to Plant

Winter is usually the best time as many trees go dormant during the season. Always research your choice of tree ahead of time to know their peak growth period to avoid planting during that time.

In the first month of winter the bare rooted fruit trees and deciduous ornamentals become available in the nurseries. If you have never shopped for bare rooted trees before it may be quite an experience to learn how they are displayed in the nursery - usually buried in damp sawdust closely together. They are simply pulled out and bagged up for you in more damp sawdust to transport home.

Remember to never let your bare rooted trees dry out prior to planting.
It is best to plant on the same day if possible.

Stage 1 - Espalier Frame Building


  • (2) 90x90mmx3m Treated Pine Square Posts
  • (1) 45x70mmx3.6m Treated Pine top beam
  • (4) Quick Set Concrete Bags (2 bags per post hole)
  • Bitumen Paint (for long term weathering)
  • Nails (for top beam) +Hammer
  • Spirit Level
  • Spare pieces of wood for stability
  • Water
  • Stirring stick (to mix water and concrete in hole)

Janine painting on the bitumen to the top beam.

Stage 2 - Wiring the Espalier

Materials (for 4 levels)

  • (2) Galvanised Wire Rope 5mm dia x 10m
  • (8) Wire Rope Grips 5mm
  • (8) Eye Bolts with nuts (152mm allows for tightening. 120mm requires hook tightening extra)
  • Chalk + String + Spirit Level
  • Wire/Tin Snips
  • Pillars
  • TIP: 50cm distance between wire levels is ideal.

Stage 3 - Bare Root Fruit Tree Planting & Pruning

Planting Tips
  • Do not add any fertiliser to the hole as it can burn the roots.
  • Add a little compost to the hole and mix with existing soil.
  • Make the hole wider than the root.
  • Choose the side carefully for the best planting direction.
  • Do not cover the graft point at the bottom of the trunk.
  • Push down well with foot after back filling with soil.
  • Water in at the end of planting.
  • Snip the main stem off to restrict height.
  • Snip out any unnecessary branches.
  • Tie first level to the wire with either t-shirt type material or stockings.
  • Never use twisty ties, tight plastic or wire around the branches as they need room to grow.
  • North facing plot is ideal (Southern Hemisphere).
  • For fruit trees there must be another pollinator tree nearby.
    I have planted a Satsuma and a Santa Rosa plum as pollinators.
  • Fertilise in August and April every year. (Australia)

And here is my first espalier plum tree...

My Satsuma plum tree looks very bare right now, but I have great hopes for her in the next few years to come.


Planting around the espalier to finish the espalier garden off.
I have plans that will make my chickens very happy girls indeed!


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